|Eat & Drink
Cafés and Bars with a Difference
Alcalá de la Henares
La Granja de San Ildefonso
Manzanares el Real
Madrileños say that there is a bank, a pharmacy, a church and a bar on every block. Certainly food and drink are never more
than a minute away. Restaurant prices are based on a three-course meal for one, without drinks or service.
Set Meals Most restaurants offer a lunchtime menú del día (fixed price meal) of around 6 which usually includes an appetizer, main course, dessert and wine or water. This offers great value but limited choice. The price includes VAT but not service; leave 5-10 percent depending on the quality of service. If you eat à la carte, it will cost more, but you can then sample the specialities.
Opening Times The Spanish like to eat late. Restaurants tend to serve lunch from 1-3 and dinner from 9-12pm. Cafés are open most of the day and often into the early hours of the morning. Tapas bars open from 11-3 and 5 or 6 until late. If you want to sit down to a proper meal in the evening, it is worth phoning ahead to check the opening time and to book a table. During the summer months, particularly August, some establishments close.
Sweets for my Sweet The madrileños love their traditional sweet cakes. During the festival of San Isidro, look out for rosquillas, like a ring-shaped doughnut, which comes in several flavours. Tontas (stupid) are plain but listas (clever) are dipped in sugar and lemon; Santa Clara and Tía Javiera are soaked in brandy. Bartolillos are three-cornered pies. Traditionally eaten during Holy Week, torrijas are crunchy like French toast, but can be enjoyed year-round with a glass of sweet wine at El Rey de los Vinos. At Halloween, pastry shops sell huesos de santos (saints' bones) and buñuelos (like a doughnut).
Madrid Specialities Traditional restaurants in the city have wood-fired ovens where whole milk-fed lamb and suckling pig are slowly and gently roasted. In autumn and winter, look for game, rabo de toro (oxtail stew) and cocido madrileño (Madrid stew), cooked in a puchero (clay pot) on a wood fire.
Drinks Madrid has a dry climate and in summer is very hot, but wherever you are, you are never far from a cold drink. Here are some useful words when you need to slake your thirst. agua mineral: mineral water; caña: small glass of beer; clara: beer and lemonade (shandy); cubata: rum and coke; fino: dry sherry; de grifo: draught (beer, vermouth); tubo: large beer; vermú: vermouth; vino blanco: white wine; vino tinto: red wine
Tapas There are hundreds of combinations of tapas. Here are a few of the most common that you may or may not want to order. albóndigas: meatballs; callos: tripe; croquetas: potato croquettes; gambas: shrimp; jamón: dried ham; mojama: dried tuna; morcilla: black pudding; pescaíto, boquerones, chanquetes: fried fish; pimientos rellenos: stuffed peppers; tortilla: potato cake
Coffee Drinking coffee is a way of life in Madrid. A small, black espresso is a café solo, a weaker, American-style coffee is an americano, while black with just a splash of milk is a cortado ('cut' with milk). Milky coffee, which is usually only drunk for breakfast, is café con leche. As for decaffeinated coffee, this is more readily available than it used to be: ask for descafeinado. In summer a café con hielo (iced black coffee) is a refreshing drink.
Cheers! In most bars, inexpensive red wine is the norm, served in a chato, which is about the size of a shot glass. However, Madrid has a number of bars that specialise in vermút, slightly bitter but refreshing draught vermouth drawn from a barrel, and drunk either straight or con sifón (with soda water). Bars that have an Andalucian flavour specialise in sherry, and you can choose anything from dry finos to sweet olorosos.
Spanish Regional Dishes Madrid is an international city, with the cuisines of the world represented, but there are also restaurants and cafés serving food from all of the regions of Spain. The Valencian style of cooking means rice-based dishes, especially paella. In Asturias, sidra (cider) is used for cooking and is also drunk with the meals. Both Galicia and the Basque country are well known for the excellence of their fish and shellfish. Catalan cooking tends to be innovative and Mediterranean. Always ask for the regional wine to go with these regional dishes.
Madrid has well over 17,000 places to eat, but there are times when visitors, especially with children, want somewhere quick, easy and international. The city has several chains of simple but good restaurants that serve meals and snacks with a Spanish accent at low prices. These are open throughout the day, from early in the morning until late into the night.